Detroit City Council Resolution Supports Presidential Immigration Program

SAM_6866Detroit City Council Resolution Supports Presidential Immigration Program
Council backs Deferred Action for Parents of Americans to prevent deportation of parents of US Citizen children

DETROIT– A single father threatened with deportation was among the community members whose testimony supported the Detroit City Council Resolution in support of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and comprehensive immigration reform. Alvaro Lopez and his family, fresh from a rally to stop his deportation, spoke before a large crowd attending the Council meeting that resulted in a resolution in support of DAPA and immigrant families. DAPA is an administrative action from President Barack Obama to protect immigrant parents and their American children from being separated by deportation. An injunction in Texas is stalling this program.

“The Detroit City Council’s support of immigrant families speaks volumes,” said Erik Shelley of Michigan United. “Detroit’s challenges have put us in the spotlight and so it’s timely and important that city leaders have stepped up to say we support President Obama’s efforts to keep parents and children and, by extension, communities together. What’s good for immigrant families is good for our community overall.”

“Politicians need to hear the real stories of families who are living with the constant fear of deportation,” said Adonis Flores, with Michigan United. “I’m glad that the City of Detroit is able to express their support for immigrants, and it sends a strong signal to the world. ICE should follow the City of Detroit’s example, and use their power to immediately stop the deportations of families like the Lopez’s.” Mr. Lopez has lived in the US for 14 years with a clean criminal record. He is father to two US Citizen children.

The Council also passed a resolution welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, and calling on the City to opt-out of the Priorities for Enforcement Program. All three resolutions were sponsored by Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez and passed unanimously.


English Innovations classes begin September 14th


Michigan United is launching “English Innovations”, a new English as a second language program that features easy-to-use technology to teach English. Students are provided tablets to facilitate learning both in the classroom and at home.

The first session will start on September 14, with morning and evening classes. This unique program will benefit students who want to learn or sharpen their knowledge of the English language, setting them up for success and better job opportunities. Students will get to learn new online tools, including games. Students of intermediate literacy are encouraged to apply now.

To enroll contact our coordinator, Lilia Rivera at 877.507.7774 ext. 704.

Space is limited so apply soon.

Join Alvaro & Ever in Support of Immigrant Families Tuesday at Detroit City Council


On Tuesday, September 15, Detroit City Council will vote on several important resolutions:

  • A resolution to support Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and call on the federal courts to allow it move forward.
  • A resolution to call on the City of Detroit to opt-out of the Priorities for Enforcement Program, which uses police departments to deport immigrants.
  • A resolution supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

We will have a rally and press conference in the morning in front of City Hall to support these resolutions and call attention to the case of Alvaro Lopez. Mr. Lopez, the father of 2 US citizen children, is facing deportation after 13 years living in the US.

Please click HERE to register and let us know you’re coming.

Need transportation? Meet us at Michigan United’s Detroit office, 4405 Wesson at 8:00 AM to carpool.

Michigan United Statewide Convention October 10th

Click HERE to register TODAY!

The Michigan United state convention is an opportunity for us take a look at the fruits of our efforts over the past year and together, build the way forward for the year to come. This year, we have also invited many of our elected officials, so we’ll have the opportunity to invite them to stand with us.

Michigan United will provide transportation from Kalamazoo, serve lunch to all the participants and provide child care for families who want to attend (Ah, the benefits of membership!). Space is limited and registration ends September 23rd, 2015.

Click HERE to register TODAY!

PRESS RELEASE: Immigrant Families March in Detroit’s Labor Day Parade

News from Michigan United


Monday, September 7th, 2015
Contact: Erik Shelley (248) 982-6326

Immigrant Families March in Labor Day Parade, Call Attention to Family Deportations
Michigan United members cry out for justice, transparency

DETROIT – Union members and community organizations came out strong this Labor Day in Detroit, marching in the early September sun down Michigan Avenue to Hart Plaza for the annual parade celebrating the workers rights movement.  Not least amongst them was Michigan United, the statewide organization that has championed workers rights as well as immigration issues and police accountability. They carried signs that read “Stop separating Families” through deportation. They carried a clear plastic banner that read “What happened to Terrance Kellom?”, questioning the official account of the the death an American citizen from Detroit who was shot by an ICE agent in April.  And walking in their midst was Alvaro Lopez, an undocumented Detroit resident who fears the two daughters he raises alone will be left fatherless if he is deported on September 17. His daughters are Americans, born in the United States, and Mr. Lopez has no criminal record.  Yet ICE plans to deport him even though they can use prosecutorial discretion to stop his deportation.

Also in the parade was the wife and children of Ever Cornejo, another good father awaiting for his deportation in detention. “We just saw ICE tear Jose Zaldana away from his wife and deport him back to El Salvador where violent gangs are waiting for him.” said Immigration Organizer, Adonis Flores. “Now we don’t want Ever’s four American born children to lose their father. The stakes seem to keep getting higher, but we can’t quit. Everyone here is fighting to protect their families.”

When the parade reached its destination by the riverside, the Michigan United troupe slipped away to a shady grove by the Mariners church. Reverend Ed Rowe, the retired pastor of Central United Methodist Church, now with Interfaith Worker Justice said a prayer for the families and their children. “If we really wanted to bless America, it would be a place where all people are welcome and we would not be destroying and separating families. We look for you to help us to become the America you want us to be.”


Michigan United is a broad, statewide coalition working to reform our broken immigration system, advance housing justice, protect the rights of low-wage workers and develop leadership. More information can be found at the Michigan United’s website:

Michigan To Make Plans To Reduce Carbon Emissions

Nico Berrios WBCK-FM September 2, 2015

Michigan officials announced today plans to develop a State Carbon Implementation Plan (SCIP) to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants. The SCIP must comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) introduced August 3. Without a state plan, Michigan would be subject to the federal implementation plan.

“This is great news for Michigan,” said Michigan United Organizing Director, Branden Snyder. “It illustrates that we can be a leader in fighting carbon pollution despite the efforts of our rogue Attorney General, Bill Schuette. We now have the historic opportunity to curb unchecked carbon pollution and reduce the impacts of climate change.”

Attorney General Schuette joined 14 other states last month in asking a federal court to block the CPP rule. However, according to Valerie Brader, executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, Mr. Schuette is “pursuing that case in his individual capacity.” Governor Rick Snyder reinforced this position stating, “We need to seize the opportunity to make Michigan’s energy decisions in Lansing, not leave them in the hands of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

In March, Governor Rick Snyder said in his energy message that he’d like to see Michigan increase renewable energy sources and reduce waste through greater energy efficiency by between 30 and 40 percent. Such moves would give State leaders the opportunity to craft a plan that would spark local investments in clean, renewable energy and create good-paying jobs in energy efficiency that would also save people money on their electric bills.

To be clear, the specifics of Michigan’s SCIP haven’t even been discussed yet, but the final plan must at least meet the standards set by the CPP to protect Michigan’s public health, agriculture, and water resources from damaging carbon pollution. What that will mean ultimately will depend on robust, public input from impacted communities.

“As the response to Hurricane Katrina sadly illustrated, low-income communities and communities of color are impacted most often and most severely by pollution and climate change,” said Sam Johnson, Pastor at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. “While I’m glad to hear the state will be developing a statewide implementation plan, it is critical that the administration partakes in a robust public input process and seeks input from the communities most affected by carbon pollution.”


PRESS RELEASE: Summer block party brings fun, poetry & people power

News from Michigan United

Saturday, August 29, 2015
Contact: Christine Lewis
(616) 822-6848

Summer block party brings fun, poetry & people power
Kalamazoo families strive to tell stories of incarceration; seek community solution

Kalamazoo – Bad weather may have driven them inside, but it didn’t dampen their spirits. The block party originally planned to take place at La Crone park moved to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership and the show went on. DJ Majyck D laid down the beats while local artists displayed their work and the neighborhood kids were kept busy with a variety of activities

But it wasn’t all fun and games. The event’s hosts, Humans Beyond Boxes and Michigan United’s Fair Chances for All, sought to delve into mass incarceration and the effect that it has on families in Kalamazoo. Specifically, on families’ access to educational and economic opportunities. “When someone is convicted of a crime, it may only be one person that goes to prison, but it’s the whole family that gets incarcerated.” said Anthony “13/13” Oliver, Humans Beyond Boxes performer and Fair Chance 4 All member. “It affects our children the most. You’re looking at a child who has lost a mother or father figure in their household,” Oliver said.

Oliver served 11 years and 6 months in Michigan prison. He shared his story on stage of returning to the community in 2005, and says a huge obstacle facing previously incarcerated people is access to quality employment. “People out there may not know how hard it hurts incarceration our families, but when a person tells their story, each time it chips away at that stigma one may have about previously incarcerated people. We are Humans Beyond Boxes, because we are humans beyond this stigma. It’s that same stigma that has got employers unwilling to hire people with criminal backgrounds.”

Oliver shared the stage with Nick Boyd, a local Kalamazoo business owner and financial advisor. “As a business owner I need [previously incarcerated people’s’] skills. Also someone returning needs to find their own meaning in life. In a society where our identity is often wrapped up with what we do — that means a chance to build a career.” Boyd said. “Most people I find out who do have a criminal backgrounds are smart creative hard working people and right now our business community makes it hard for them to thrive. That has got to change.”

The city of Kalamazoo took a step to address this issue in 2011 with a policy that removed questions about criminal history from municipal employment applications. The Michigan United Fair Chance 4 All campaign hopes to see this expand to the private sector as well. “Banning the box in Kalamazoo has been great for low income communities and not just for residents returning from serving their sentences.” said Boyd who is a member of Michigan United’s Fair Chance 4 All campaign. “We want to see this expand into the private sector and so does the private sector. Building healthy communities is just good business.”

Yolonda Lavender closed the event to a standing ovation with an a capella medley of God Bless the Child by Billy Holiday & We Who Believe in Freedom by Bernice Johnson Reagon. “I chose these songs to highlight ownership. Ownership of self and of our community. We are fighting for community solutions for people returning from incarceration. There is a sense of freedom that comes with that. You own whatever has happened in your past and in a sense we share stories and continue to fight as an act of liberation.”


Michigan United is a broad, statewide coalition working to reform our broken immigration system, advance housing justice, protect the rights of low-wage workers and develop leadership. More information can be found at the Michigan United’s website:
Anthony "13/13" Oliver sharing his story. Photo credit Christine LewisAnthony “13/13” Oliver sharing his story. Photo credit Christine Lewis

Troy man’s family fighting against deportation to El Salvador

Francisco Zaldana, nephew of Jose Adolfo Zaldana, rallies in Detroit to prevent his uncle’s impending deportation to El Salvador. Photo courtesy of Michigan United
Francisco Zaldana, nephew of Jose Adolfo Zaldana, rallies in Detroit to prevent his uncle’s impending deportation to El Salvador. Photo courtesy of Michigan United

Supporters of a Troy man, whose deportation to his native El Salvador could occur any day, fear for his life.

They’re hoping the federal court judge assigned to his case will reconsider his fate.

Jose Adolfo Zaldana, 26, was arrested in March 2014 and has since been jailed in Battle Creek. He was deported in 2009 following an arrest in which he was found to have a small amount of cocaine, before illegally reentering the country in 2010, according to Michigan United, a statewide organization dedicated to seeking social justice for its clients.

“It’s like flipping a coin,” said Michigan United immigrant rights organizer Adonis Flores. “We never know what the outcome is going to be.”

On Monday, supporters gathered outside federal court in Detroit in hopes of keeping Jose Zaldana in the country.

Zaldana’s family organized a 17-mile walk down Woodward Avenue from Royal Oak to Detroit in June to raise awareness for his case.

Jose Zaldana has previously been denied asylum and the group is lobbying U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Leitman to issue an injunction which would help buy Zaldana time to appeal his immigration case.

Zaldana’s return to the area in 2010 was forced by turmoil in his home country, the organization said.

In the time spent in El Salvador, Jose Zaldana was beaten by gang members and his family was the subject of an extortion plot.

“I don’t want him to have to go there and I don’t want to go there,” wife Merari Zaldana said. “I don’t want our children to have to go through what he did.”

Involuntarily initiated into a gang as a pre-teen, Jose Zaldana fled to the United States in 2006. Supporters say the violence is so out of control, he was beaten by gangs before returning to the United States and faces death threats upon his return.

“(Immigration officials) know everything he’s gone through is true,” Merari Zaldana said. “(Gangs) control everything. The police can’t do anything.”

Flores said extortion by gangs is not uncommon and that some deportees are killed soon after they return to their native country.

“We know that undocumented immigrants have broken the law, but what should the consequence be – losing their life?” Flores said. “You have to take into consideration why they came here.”

Flores said Zaldana served time for cocaine possession, residue found inside his wallet.

“He made a mistake and owned up for it … but it’s being used by immigration to paint him as a dangerous person,” Flores said, noting Zaldana has done extensive work with his church and has no other criminal incidents.

The Zaldanas have been together for eight years and were married earlier this year while Jose Zaldana was incarcerated.

Relocating to another country is not how they want to start a family.

“We don’t want to do that,” Merari Zaldana said. “We’re not going to go to a country where we don’t know anybody.”

Merari Zaldana, 23, was born in Mexico, and now resides in Troy, where she graduated from Troy High in 2010. She was granted a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy implemented in 2012, and works at a local restaurant.

She still hopes to attend college.

The couple has limited contact – phone calls and visits – but if Jose Zaldana was removed from the country, his wife can’t imagine life without him.

“It’s so hard to think about it,” Merari Zaldana said. “I haven’t really thought about it.”

A group called Michigan United says another native of El Salvador, Ever Cornejo, also is facing imminent deportation.

A father of four American-born children, Cornejo, 30, of Detroit, has no criminal record, but does not meet the requirements for asylum, according to the organization.

“Immigrant families are mixed families (of immigration status),” Flores said. “Deportation breaks those families apart.”

A representative from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not available for comment on the cases.

Michigan United, families in Kalamazoo rally for immigration reform

Stephen Brooks |
By Stephen Brooks, MLive,  June 28, 2014 

KALAMAZOO, MI – A slight drizzle of rain may have dampened the turnout but it didn’t drown out the passionate voices of dozens of activists on Saturday at an immigration reform rally in downtown Kalamazoo.

One year to the day since the U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill that has yet to be voted on by the House of Representatives, Michigan United held a rally to urge President Barack Obama to stop deportations and keep together families threatened by deportation.

The event, held at Kalamazoo Community College’s Arcadia Commons campus, was among 38 protests scheduled to take place in cities across the country – including rallies in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids – Michigan United lead organizer Wendy Medrano said.

“We’re saying stop deportations because there’s a lot of people who get deported for things that aren’t serious, like a traffic violation or something like that,” Medrano said. “We understand if they committed a felony, that’s something different.

“We want to give these people a chance to have some sort of status so they feel safe in their own communities. President Obama has the power to do that.”

Holding with signs that read “Stop separating families” and reciting chants such as “Obama, Obama, don’t deport our momma,” the group made its way down the Kalamazoo Mall to U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s office.

On the day she graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in social work, 23-year-old Celeste Salvador told a story of how her mother was taken to jail while driving to work because she’s an undocumented immigrant. Salvador said her family had “a very hard time” after her mother’s arrest, especially considering she was driving to work to help pay for Salvador’s college education.

Salvador is protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, which gives undocumented immigrants age 30 or younger two years of immunity to deportation and allows them to get work permits and driver’s licenses if they’re eligible.

“Thanks to DACA I’m able to work and go to school and live a normal life,” Salvador said. “But it’s not totally normal because my parents are still undocumented.”

Esteban Verdugo, 12, of Kalamazoo said participating in the rally was important to him after seeing his father deported. Verdugo – who was previously arrested for civil disobedience while protesting outside Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office in  Washington D.C. – said he doesn’t want his undocumented step-father to meet the same fate because of a “broken immigration system.”

“I think eventually we could persuade Congress to pass the bill so that we can have immigration reform,” Verdugo said.

Here’s How Detroit Has Managed to Keep the Peace During Protests Over Police Brutality

Colleen Curry, Vice News

The shooting death of a 20-year-old black man in Detroit by a federal agent last week spurred protests and community meetings in the city, where anger has long simmered over police brutality, but community leaders say they hope the situation will not boil over into the sort of destructive rioting and looting seen recently in Baltimore and Ferguson.

Terrance Kellom was wanted for armed robbery when an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent — and a member of an interagency task force in Detroit — shot and killed him at his home. A police report said Kellom lunged at agents with a hammer, though his father said that wasn’t true. Seven spent shell casings were found at the scene, and authorities have refused to release Kellom’s autopsy report.

Tensions ran high at the ensuing protests, and authorities said they were on the brink of losing control. “They came real close to crossing the line and getting arrested,” Police Chief James Craig said Thursday after video surfaced of an unruly demonstration.

Eric Shelley, the spokesman for the group Michigan United, told VICE News that some protesters were “on the edge of crossing the line,” with some in the crowd “almost challenging the police,” but the situation never got completely out of hand.

“You could see the tensions take a step back,” Shelley said. “Like Martin Luther King said, riots are the language of the voiceless, so giving the people more voice would perhaps reduce the risk of danger.”

After more than 47 fatal shootings between 1995 and 2000, including six of unarmed suspects, Detroit entered into two consent judgments with the Justice Department in 2003 that kept a federal monitor watching over the city’s police department until 2014. A civilian police commission was also created to oversee the department.

‘I don’t think the tendency here would be to go out and burn and loot and shoot.’

Ron Scott, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, called it “the strongest police commission in the country,” and told VICE News that the city’s long history of activism and organization has helped maintain order even as the community’s anger over Kellom’s death has steadily risen.

“This is the city that originally had Black Power and the largest civil rebellion in the country in 1967,” Scott said. “I don’t think the tendency here would be to go out and burn and loot and shoot. There are a lot of things that people are going through right now we’ve been through.”

According to experts, a city’s history is just one factor that influences whether public outrage over allegations of police misconduct erupts into destruction. John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told VICE News that such outcomes are also shaped by the government’s ability and willingness to communicate with residents, take their grievances seriously, and deliver justice.

“If you build trust in police, dedicate resources to monitoring police, and engage citizens in a proactive way, you’re much less likely to get into these situations,” Roman said. “If citizens don’t trust the police, the police don’t have accountability mechanisms, and the police take a tough approach to policing, you’re much more likely to get into these situations and having an enormously hard time getting out of them.”

To explain the dynamics, Shelley cited the case of Floyd Dent, a Detroit resident who was beaten by a suburban police officer during a routine traffic stop earlier this year. Prosecutors dropped drug charges against Dent after video emerged showing Officer William Melendez hitting him 14 times in the head. Melendez was fired and now he and another officer face criminal charges in connection with the case.

“Something that’s overlooked is the effect of justice,” Shelley said. “You have the riots in the Baltimore that seemed to calm down when the officers were charged.”

In response to Kellom’s death, Shelley and Scott have been organizing community meetings with Police Chief James Craig and the US Attorney’s office in Detroit to discuss the case and broader issues of police brutality and accountability. They’ve also been working to restore power to the police commission, which lost its oversight powers in 2013 when Michigan’s governor appointed an emergency manager to oversee the city’s financial operations.

“We are trying to keep police accountable,” Shelley said. “On Friday we intend to go to ICE and ask for a full investigation and see if we can do something about this multi-jurisdictional task force.”

That type of community organizing and dialogue between government and citizens is essential to avoiding the type of explosive riots seen elsewhere in recent months, Brian Jackson, director of safety and justice program at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, told VICE News.

“The issue of police-community trust is how the social capital gets built up so when something does happen… there’s a presence of those community groups and touch points between the community and police to work through the process to make sure everyone is satisfied that events are being dealt with in a fair and impartial way,” Jackson said.

Although federal oversight of Detroit’s police has ended, Scott said the way the city handles allegations of police misconduct has improved. And even when the public feels a grievance hasn’t been properly addressed, there are mechanisms in place to coordinate a response.

“What we’re trying to do is to make sure we have a different type of way to resolve issues,” Scott said. “We are in a situation where we have a number of organizations apply pressure when necessary.”

Still, Scott said that things could get ugly in Detroit if protests ever turned violent. He called the city a “burgeoning police state” full of federal agents and heavily armed officers, and said there is resentment over “corporate policing” in the form of private security firms hired by Quicken Loans and other corporations headquartered locally.

“I don’t want to create havoc, but if there’s an insurrection here, they’re not going to burn up a CVS,” Scott said. “There might be a shootout.”

He emphasized the unlikelihood of that scenario, but said if it did happen it would “be more highly organized and orchestrated than what we’ve seen before.” Ultimately, however, the activist leader said most people in Detroit trust that organizations like his will see that justice is served without individuals feeling the need to take matters into their own hands.

“They respect some of us who have been out here a long time to get justice,” Scott said. “We’ve dealt with numerous cases and been successful in getting justice in those cases, and they trust us to do what we have to do to work with everybody else.”

Follow Colleen Curry on Twitter: @currycolleen

Justice & Dignity for All